Tomas Garrozi v. Juana Dastas
|51 L.Ed. 369,204 U.S. 64,27 S.Ct. 224
|07 January 1907
|TOMAS GARROZI, Juana Maria Gonzalez, and Domingo Piazzi, Appts., v. JUANA DASTAS
|U.S. Supreme Court
Messrs. Charles M. Boerman and Fritz von Briesen for appellants.
[Argument of Counsel from page 65 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Frederic D. McKenney; Francis H. Dexter, and John Spalding Flannery for appellee.
[Argument of Counsel from page 66 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:
In the district court of Ponce, in October, 1891, through a representative (next friend), Juana Dastas, alleged to be a resident of Porto Rico and a married woman, commenced this suit against her husband, Tomas Garrozi y Pietri, as also against Juana Maria Gonzalez and Domingo Piazzi y Pietri, all three of whom were alleged to be residents of Porto Rico. We shall hereafter after speak of the plaintiff as the wife and the principal defendant, Garrozi, as the husband.
As far as essential to be considered, the facts alleged, the cause of action relied on, and the proceedings had, up to the pleading by the defendants, are summarized as follows: The marriage took place in May, 1886, and as no antenuptial contract was made, their property relations were governed by the community system under the Code of Porto Rico. They lived together until November, 1898, when they separated, and the wife, under the direction of the husband, resided in a house provided by him. There she lived until December, 1899, when, owing to the failure of the husband to support her, she removed to Ponce.
The husband in 1901 sued for a divorce on the ground of the wife's adultery and she, by a reconventional demand (cross bill), prayed for a divorce on the same ground, and because of cruel treatment. In this suit the court awarded the wife $75 a month alimony pendente lite. This not having been paid, the wife issued execution and realized from a sale of certain furniture one month's alimony. The remainder of the alimony up to the commencement of this suit, aggregating $225 and 598 pesos, Porto Rican currency, the amount of legal expenses incurred by the wife in defending the divorce suit, and which had been allowed by the court, were yet unpaid. These amounts were uncollected because of the apparent insolvency of the husband. This insolvency was, however, only apparent, because there was a large amount of real and personal property belonging separately to the husband, or to the community, which the husband had, with the object of defrauding the wife, apparently disposed of by simulated transfers to the defendants Maria Gonzalez and Domingo Piazzi. The character and extent of this property were detailed as well as the various alleged simulated contracts, which it was averred had been made concerning the same. The prayer was that the contracts in question be set aside as mere fraudulent simulations, so as to enable the wife to exert her rights therein or thereagainst. The court admitted the petition to be filed and authorized the suit by the wife in the name of her representative or next friend. Before the day for pleading, the husband, alleging himself to be a citizen and subject of France, and that by operation to law the wife was of the same nationality, obtained an order for removal to the court below. Subsequently the two other defendants also prayed and were allowed a removal. On the filing of the record a motion to remand was made, based upon the fact that the husband's petition for removal contained no averment of residence. The court refused to remand and allowed an amendment alleging the residence of the husband to be in France.
Without attempting to state the many pleadings which followed, the ultimate issues and the action of the court may be thus summarized: The petition of the wife was amended and reformed, authority being given by the court for the prosecution of the suit on her behalf by her representative or next friend. The petition in its final form was less prolix, and the allegation was added that the divorce proceeding between the husband and wife, referred to in the original petition, had gone to the supreme court of Porto Rico, and had by that court been finally decided, decreeing a divorce in favor of the husband. The prayer for relief was amended to conform to this situation; that is, it was prayed not only that the simulated contracts be set aside, but, further, that the community be liquidated, and the wife he awarded her share. The defense, as finally made on the part of the husband, as well as the other defendants, was an averment of the good faith and reality of all the contracts alleged to have been simulated. Moreover, the husband denied that there was community property, because nothing had been acquired during marriage which fell into the community, and because all the property which he possessed, even assuming that the assailed contracts were simulated, was separate property, either owned at the date of the marriage or thereafter acquired as a reinvestment of separate funds. It was, moreover, specially alleged that, as the divorce had been decreed against the wife on account of her adultery, she had forfeited all her interest in the community if any community property existed. Besides, the right of the wife to compel the liquidation of the community, even if she had not forfeited her right to a participation in the community assets, if any, was specially challenged.
The court appointed an examiner, who took and reported the testimony. Under a stipulation and order the cause was referred for report to a special master upon the facts and law. Before the master reported the wife prayed a receiver and an injunction, upon averments that the two defendants, to whom it was charged the property of the husband had been seem- ingly transferred or encumbered by simulated contracts, were dealing with the same so as to dissipate the estate and frustrate the relief prayed. A receiver was appointed, and the defendants were enjoined as prayed. The report of the special master, as to both the facts and law, substantially sustained the claims of the wife. Exceptions taken to the report were overruled and the report was confirmed. The court below adopted the facts found by the master and reiterated them in the findings in the nature of a special verdict, made for the purposes of the present appeal. By those findings all the charges of fraudulent simulation relied upon by the wife were found to be true, and, as a legal conclusion, all the property and assets to which the simulated contracts related were held to belong to the husband. Concerning the community and its liquidation, it was found, as a matter of fact, that the wife, at the time of the marriage, had no property, and subsequently acquired none, whilst the husband, at the time of the marriage, was the owner of various assets and described property, which was found to have been of the value, at the time of the marriage, of $71,500. The net property of the husband at the date of the dissolution of the marriage, including all reinvestments or avails of his separate property existing at the time of the marriage, and, allowing for community debts, was found by the court to be $77,000, thus leaving $5,500 as the acqu et or gain of the community, which was subject to be divided equally between the husband and wife. In addition, the court found that during the marriage the husband had spent, out of the revenues of his property, which revenues fell into the community, the sum of $47,000, during various trips made by him to Europe, and that these expenditures by the husband, from revenue which belonged to the community, were unreasonable to the extent of $22,000. From the facts thus found, as a matter of law, it was concluded that the $22,000 should be treated as an existing acqu et of the community, subject to be equally divided between the parties. The sum, therefore, of the community property for distribution, was fixed at $27,500, the wife's share, therefore, being $13,750. The court in its final decree annulled the simulated contracts, and decreed the property to which such contracts related to belong to the husband, and, fixing the sum of the community as above stated, a money decree was entered in favor of the wife for her share thereof,—$13,750. The decree reserved the right of the court to make such further orders as might be necessary, the receiver was directed to make full report, and a special master was appointed with power to sell the property in the custody of the receiver, if necessary, to pay the decree in favor of the wife. On the day after the entry of the final decree, on motion of the wife, the court passed a further decree in her favor, directing the payment to her, first, of the sum of $598, awarded to her by the district court of Ponce as her expenses in the divorce litigation, and the sum of $133.50, interest thereon to the date of the decree; second, the sum of $885, due for alimony awarded by the district court of Ponce to the date of the decree of divorce; and, third, the sum of $1,500, on account of solicitors' fees in the pending litigation,—a total of $3,116.50. The receiver was directed to pay these several sums out of any money in his hands, and, in default of sufficient funds, execution to enforce against the husband was authorized.
The court, in its findings, has stated the rulings which were excepted to with respect to the admission or rejection of evidence, accompanied with such portions of the evidence as it deemed adequate to enable a review of such rulings.
Before coming to the merits we must dispose of three preliminary questions. First. The suggestion of a want of jurisdiction in this court is without merit. Royal Ins. Co. v. Martin, 192 U. S. 149, 48 L. ed. 385, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 247. Second. The contention that the court below was without jurisdiction, and that the cause, therefore, should not be passed upon on the...
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